Habermas on Intellectuals

The Austrian paper Der Standard printed the first part of an acceptance speech by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas for the Bruno Kreisky Prize for promoting human rights on 10 March and the second part today; the philosopher starts by discussing the declining prominence of intellectuals through television and the Internet. Here’s the resumé, as given by sightandsoud :

On the one hand, the communication shift from books and the printed press to the television and the Internet has brought about an unimagined broadening of the media sphere, and an unprecedented consolidation of communication networks. Intellectuals used to swim around in the public sphere like fish in water, but this environment has become ever more inclusive, while the exchange of ideas has become more intensive than ever. But on the other hand the intellectuals seem to be suffocating from the excess of this vitalising element, as if they were overdosing. The blessing seems to have become a curse. I see the reasons for that in the de-formalisation of the public sphere, and in the de-differentiation of the respective roles.”

In the second part, says the same source, Habermas, after attributing the intellectual with an “avant-garde sense for the relevant” in part one, now shows what that means with his own reflections on the future of Europe. The philosopher calls on Europeans

“to pull up their socks and carry out a reform which would give Europeans an effective decision-making apparatus, their own foreign minister, a directly-elected president and an independent financial basis. These demands could form the basis of a referendum held concurrently with the next European parliamentary elections. The draft would be considered passed if it received the ‘double majority’ of votes of the states and the electorate. At the same time, the referendum would only bind the member states in which a majority had voted in favour. Europe would then move away from the convoy model where the tempo is set by the slowest member.”

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